‘Many factors impact vegetable price fluctuations’

‘Many factors impact vegetable price fluctuations’
Onion volumes were up 60% from the previous week according to statistics for the week ending 3 May.
Photo: Sabrina Dean

The Fresh Produce Market Trends report released in the first week of May by Absa senior agricultural economist, Wessel Lemmer, indicated that potato volumes increased 102% from the previous week, with onion volumes also up more than 60%.

Week-on-week tomato volumes were up 46%, carrots were up 20%, and cabbages increased 34%.

“Some farmers harvested their crops [cabbages] rapidly to avoid them rotting from the increased rain we saw in the past weeks,” the report stated.

Carrot prices were up 19% week-on-week despite higher volumes, with onion prices also 2% higher. Potato prices decreased 2% week-on-week, cabbage prices were down 9%, and tomato prices declined nearly 30%.

General manager of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Lindie Stroebel, told Farmer’s Weekly that trying to make sense of the fluctuations in fresh produce volumes and prices was often difficult.

These factors could also not be viewed in isolation as issues such as consumer spending power at a certain time of the month, shopping habits (such as stockpiling), or even global events could have a significant impact on local supply, demand and prices of specific vegetables.

For example, the poorest segment of the local population accounted for about 50% of the market for these types of vegetables, and their spending power and habits changed depending on the time of the month.

“Buyers start stocking up on produce from mid-month to prepare for higher demand at the end of the month. This tends to push prices up,” she said.

Another major influencer was the export market, with producers increasingly taking advantage of sudden supply gaps in the market. She said this had driven the increase in domestic onion prices about a month ago.

“There was a gap to export to the European market because of supply shortages there,” she said.

Stroebel said it was important that farmers at ground level, who were trying to determine whether to market their produce or hold on to it, consider all the various fresh produce market dynamics and not just base decisions on statistics from weekly volume and price fluctuations.